States struggle with unreliable federal funding to ensure election security

Hired security personnel wait for voters outside the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office November 3, 2020 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The federal government has sought to bolster election security through a popular grant program for years, but wildly fluctuating funding levels have made it difficult for state officials to plan their budgets and projects.

Growing misinformation about elections, often fueled by conspiracy theories, as well as threats against election workers, make these grants particularly important, election officials say.

But Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking to eliminate funding for election security grants — known as Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, grants — in this year’s appropriations process, a move that they also tried unsuccessfully last year.

“We continue to needlessly risk the very integrity of our elections and American democracy,” Georgia Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop said Thursday during committee debate on the funding bill.

Bishop, a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was “concerned about outdated and insecure voting systems across the country, which pose a very, very serious threat to our national security and to our system democratic”.

“It is irresponsible to ignore this warning sign,” Bishop added. “Our country’s electoral systems are currently and constantly under attack by foreign actors who threaten our democratic values. »

The bill was approved by the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee, without any money for grants.

Gideon Cohn-Postar, legislative director of Issue One & Issue One Action, said in an interview with States Newsroom that while the grants have traditionally been bipartisan, several factors have affected support for the program in recent years.

“This remains something that many Republicans support, both in the House and the Senate,” Cohn-Postar said. “But it also ties into, I think, some misinformation about the election that started to spread in 2020.”

Former President Donald Trump, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has continued to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

Issue One writes on its website that the organization strives “to unite Republicans, Democrats and independents in the movement to fix our broken political system and build an inclusive democracy that works for everyone.”

Grant funding declines

Congress approved $55 million in election security grants during the last appropriations process, which concluded this spring. The action came after the Republican-controlled House, which proposed zero dollars, spoke with the Democratic-controlled Senate, which proposed $75 million in funding.

This final funding level represents a decrease from the $75 million approved by Congress in fiscal years 2023 and 2022.

Congress has not approved any election subsidies…

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